Dunleavy administration mandates two-week quarantine for people traveling into Alaska

Gov. Mike Dunleavy talks to reporters at a press conference about the novel coronavirus in early March. (Joey Mendolia/Alaska Public Media)

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration announced Monday that anyone entering Alaska from Outside must self-quarantine themselves for 14 days as the number of known coronavirus cases in the state continues to grow.

The new mandate applies to Alaska residents, workers and travelers, and goes into effect at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, said Alaska Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Adam Crum.

“Arriving residents and workers in self-quarantine should work from home unless you support a critical infrastructure,” he said.

Crum announced the mandate, along with other new restrictions, at a news conference Monday evening in response to the widening global coronavirus pandemic’s effects on Alaska. The number of known coronavirus cases in the state had grown to 36, up four cases from the last announcement on Sunday, Dunleavy said.

Dunleavy said that while he believes Alaskans will overcome the challenges posed by coronavirus, or the disease it causes called COVID-19, the state expects greater hardship to come.

“Will some of us get sick? Yes, obviously, 36 cases,” Dunleavy said. “Are there many more that are probably affected right now in Alaska? Yes, there probably are a lot more. Will there be people that will be hospitalized as we go through this? Absolutely. And will there be some Alaskans that this virus will cause their death? There will be some.”

State officials said they’re preparing for the number of coronavirus cases to continue to grow, with Alaska recording the first signs of community spread over the weekend, meaning the cases weren’t directly related to travel.

“Eventually, likely, most of us will get it,” said Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Anne Zink.

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Under the new travel mandate, Crum said, anyone arriving by air will be required to fill out a declaration form at the airport detailing where they plan to quarantine themselves. People who do not follow the order to self-quarantine face up to a $25,000 fine and more than a year in jail, according to state officials.

The mandate follows calls from doctors and community leaders across the state for a ban on non-essential air travel in Alaska.

The Dunleavy administration on Monday also ordered the closure of all Alaska businesses where people are within six feet of each other, including nail salons, hair salons, tattoo shops and massage therapy locations. Plus, it banned gatherings of more than 10 people.

The order goes into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Crum said. It does not include health care facilities.

“The main point of this one is to make sure you do social distancing,” Crum said. “If you go grocery shopping, don’t bring your entire family into the store. Send one individual to go in. Make sure there’s proper spacings in line.”

The four new confirmed coronavirus cases announced Monday are all from Anchorage and are all related to travel outside the state, Zink said.

“It’s important to understand that the numbers we see today really reflect what happened to someone a week ago,” she said.

More than 1,000 COVID-19 tests had been performed by Monday in Alaska, Zink said.

She underscored that Alaskans must distance themselves from each other to slow the spread of the virus. She said the states’ mandates are “essentially Alaska’s version of shelter in place or stay at home.”

“Except the outdoors are lovely and they’re not dangerous for people, so you can be outside safely distanced from others,” she said. “But stay away from other people as much as you can.”

Across the country, local and state officials have continued to put in place additional restrictions as the virus spreads. There were more than 33,000 cases of COVID-19 in the U.S. by Monday, and 400 deaths, according to the CDC.